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2021 is Here

2021 is here, and with the promise of a new year comes the hope for change. Coronavirus holidays and winter brain-training have our attention now, but do you have hearing healthcare plans in mind for the spring and beyond?

If you’re still looking for some simple steps to help with your hearing resolutions, we might be able to offer a few COVID-safe suggestions.

1. Mask extenders. Start your year off right by picking up one of our complimentary mask extenders. These easy to use accessories can help keep you protected and your hearing aids safe. Call our office for more information. Stop by, and we’ll bring them to you right outside.

2. Any hearing aid problems? Get them taken care of with our curbside service! For routine maintenance issues, you can drop off your device without having to leave your car.

3. If you would like a little more intensive work on your hearing aid (such as reprogramming), you can ask us about our remote testing services. We’re planning to roll this out in the next few months.

4. Attend some of our virtual seminars. If you’re interested in what new hearing technology is out there, hop onto one of our zoom demonstrations. We’ll be demoing the latest tech and answering any questions you may have. Our Tips and Sips page will list all upcoming dates and info about how to log on.

Let’s go into this year with our ears in mind. Here’s to a hopeful and healthy 2021.

Auditory Training at Home

If you have hearing loss and find yourself alone during the winter months, the following tips could help with your auditory training at home.

What is auditory training?

Auditory training is not only learning how to distinguish between sounds but comprehending and interpreting the sounds you hear. In day-to-day life, this is usually done passively and — if you have difficulty hearing — with a hearing aid or audio device. Socializing with people and interacting with others around you helps strengthen your signal-to-noise ratio, clue you in on what’s going on and what you need to pay attention to. In young children, auditory training goes hand in hand with brain development.

How can auditory training be impaired?

If socialization is taken away or limited, if you find yourself alone more often than not, you may wear your hearing aids less. Your brain may stop working as hard as it’s used to, and its ability to decode the information your ears hear — like any muscle not in constant use — may atrophy.

What can you do?

1. Always wear your hearing aids during the day, whether you’re alone or not.
2. Read books while listening along to the audiobook (or read along out loud). In the long run, this visual + auditory combination can help strengthen your comprehension.
3. If you’re watching tv or a movie, turn on closed captions (in addition to keeping the volume at a comfortable level).
4. Talk to people! Current technology can often pair right to your hearing aid to help with video chats and digital get-togethers.

For other suggestions, don’t hesitate to call your audiologist, who will be able to answer any other questions you may have about auditory training at home. Historically, winter months are the toughest months, but today our aids and our knowledge can help bridge the isolation gap, help us continue to grow.

Social Distancing

In today’s world of social distancing and 6-feet-away safety, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about the efficiency of hearing aids over long distances. How far away can you be before your aids don’t help you anymore?

The good news is today’s hearing technology is more effective than ever before. But for larger distances or noisier locations, hearing and speech processing can be tricky. Especially in a learning environment. Even with top-shelf aids. For every doubling of distance, the sound level around you reduces by 6 decibels (dB) (e.g., moving from 10 to 20 meters away from a sound source). Background noise, too, further compromises word intelligibility. A person with optimal hearing requires speech to be 2 to 3 dB louder than background noise in order to understand 50% of words correctly. A person with mild to moderate hearing loss requires speech to be 8 dB louder than background noise in order to understand 50% of words correctly.

What aids do help?

Though no technology is perfect (a great enough distance and/or ambient noise will overpower any aid), Oticon’s BrainHearing™ technology and their Opn S1 can certainly help bridge the gap. “Oticon Opn and the open sound experience proved how Oticon’s unique approach to signal processing outperformed traditional hearing aid technology. In fact, compared to traditional technology, Oticon Opn improved speech understanding by 30%, reduced listening effort by 20%, and improved memory recall by 20%.

Another device that can help, especially in classrooms, is the Oticon ConnectClip, which functions as a remote microphone. For watching TV or listening to podcasts and music, current hearing aids can also connect to your phone and smart devices via Bluetooth®. Be aware, though, that constant use of remote connection will drain your batteries at a faster rate than usual, so be sure to stock up!

For other options and devices, don’t hesitate to ask your audiologist.

Outside of hearing healthcare technology, what can you do?

For regular conversations, you can be pretty confident your aids will work at a distance of 6 feet, though it might be more of a challenge to hear than if you were closer. If there is too much ambient noise, you can always politely ask your companion to speak a little louder or move to a quieter location. Be upfront with your situation, and don’t be embarrassed.

Even more concerning than keeping your distance is having to potentially isolate yourself from family, friends, and maybe even healthcare professionals. According to professionals, “in times such as these, when we are encouraged to be further apart from each other to avoid community-based virus spread…members with hearing loss are likely feeling more isolation than ever before.” And with isolation comes a whole host of problems, including depression, which can potentially affect the way you hear and how your brain can process speech.

If you have concerns about any comprehension or hearing trouble, please talk to your audiologist or primary care physician. Being comfortable in your environment is no small thing, and right now, it’s important to be at your best.

Keep Your Hearing Aids Dry

Cold weather is almost here. This fall and winter, how can you keep your hearing aids dry and safe?

Keep Them Dry

Keeping water out of your aids is one of the most important things you can do. Any excess moisture can irreparably damage your device, and due to COVID, you probably don’t want to make any unnecessary trips to get them fixed.

Consider purchasing a specialized dehumidifier to help dry out your aids at night. For specific products, check out amazon or talk to your audiologist. They’ll know the best option for your needs.

When changing batteries, be sure your hands are dry and no excess moisture touches the contact ports.

Exercise / Masks

This year, there are also masks to consider. In addition to normal mask-wearing tips, if you’re exercising outside, you want to be sure both your face covering and your hearing aids are both properly fitted and not tangled up. You don’t want to lose your aid mid-run.

If you’re working out, sweat is also a factor. Though it’s another accessory, consider wearing a sweatband to catch any perspiration.

Damage

Unsure if your aids are damaged? Healthy Hearing has a list of “telltale signs”:

1. Loud noises cause hearing aids to cut out
2. Fading sound
3. Static
4. Distorted sounds

If, worst-case scenario, your device has issues, don’t worry! Check the warranty and call your audiologist. It may just be a matter of drying out your aids. With remote testing and device diagnosis on the rise, it’s also possible your audiologist could fix your aid without you ever having to leave the house.

FYI

For a complimentary mask extender to help prevent your hearing instruments from falling out, give us a call at (888) 710-5734. We’ll be sure to reserve one for you!

Prepare your Ears and Aids

Though the upcoming fall and winter season will have its challenges, there are steps you can take to help prepare your ears and aids for the months ahead.

Stock Up

Make sure you have plenty of batteries, hearing aid wipes, and the proper cleaning tools. If something goes wrong with your device, there’s a lot you can do at home to fix the problem, especially with regular maintenance.

Be sure to call your audiologist for all necessary supplies.

Get Tested

If you’ve been waiting to get your hearing tested or re-tested (or if you need a new hearing aid), now might be the perfect time to do it, before it gets too cold. All REM offices follow COVID-19 safety procedures, so you can take care of your hearing needs quickly and safely.

Be sure to also look into any tele-health or remote testing options. Sometimes, an audiologist can diagnose and fix a problem over the phone or video chat. Other times, they may opt to try and fix the problem from afar.

What is Remote Testing?

Simply described, remote testing is when hearing aids are paired via Bluetooth to an app on a smart phone or smart device. An audiologist using a computer in REM’s office can then program or make changes to the hearing aid. Some devices even permit the audiologist to do a hearing test through the aids themselves. REM is currently working on starting up our remote testing program.

Keep Up Your Brain Training

This year, everyone will be spending a lot more time indoors. This can have unwanted consequences for those with hearing loss. The more you’re isolated, the less you talk with people, the easier it is for your hearing comprehension — your ability to understand speech in noise — to backslide.

REM recommends trying to stay connected to as many people as possible. Video chats and Zoom hangouts are ideal in this situation, and your devices may even be able to be paired to your computer system. Audiobooks can also be a helpful, enjoyable training technique.

Talk to Your Audiologist

Your audiologist, because they know you, will know what to do. They can recommend the best actions to take and will help you with your fall and winter preparations.

Give them a call. See what they have to say.

Find Your Hard of Hearing Community

Facing challenges is always easier with the help of others. If you’re new to hearing loss (or even if you’re not!), who can you talk to, turn to for advice? Where can you find those who may be going through a similar situation? How can you find your hard of hearing community?

Audiologists

Your first line of defense will probably end up being your most ardent support system. With the help of your primary care physician and audiologist, you can meet nearly any hearing difficulty head-on with information and advice.

An audiologist will take you through different styles and models of hearing aids. They will offer their opinion on the best ways to keep your ears safe, and they’ll often suggest techniques to practice brain training and comprehension habits for the future. They will not only guide your expectations and answer your questions, but they can also recommend activities and groups to help acclimate you and your ears to any new sound environment.

How to Find Online Communities

With the internet, the hard of hearing world has never been more accessible. But how do you go about finding that certain special group that seems to speak directly to you?

1. Google! Try and find some online communities through online searches. This casts a wide net, but can be a good place to start.

2. Search Facebook or social media for national or local organizations. On-the-web get-togethers can be just as helpful as in-person meetings.

3. Be patient! Finding an organization, message board, or a series of blogs you find helpful — where you feel comfortable — is often a personal process. It can take some time. There’s no rush!

4. Ask around! Talk to your audiologist and the staff at your doctors’s offices, or check out Meetup.com. The more people you talk to, the more ideas and options you’ll have.

Resources

1. If you’re local to us at REM Audiology, the Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre in Philadelphia might be worth your time. “We’re focused on creating opportunities for Deaf individuals to become more participatory members of Philadelphia through work, fellowship, and community activism,” their website states.

2. Or consider the NAD (National Association of the Deaf). Though geared more towards legal matters and advocacy, the NAD website has a full list of links and ideas that can help you pursue your research.

3. Sites like Healthy Hearing and Hearing Like Me always have good ideas and often list sites you may find helpful (such as: Hearing Health & Technology Matters – life as a hard of hearing consumer).

Asking for help is always something we encourage our patients to do. It’s easier to walk together than it is to walk alone.

Getting More From Pediatric Aids

Now that you know the different makes, models, and accessories / assistive listening devices, you might be asking yourself, what else can I get out of my Oticon pediatric hearing aids?

What Can You Do?

1. Ask your audiologist about customization and sound profiles.

2. Read / stay up to date. The features we covered in our tech spotlight and blogs are only the tip of the iceberg, and improvements and additions are always on the horizon.

3. Are you worried about putting a hearing aid on a toddler and keeping it in place? Preventing it from getting lost? Oticon has you covered there, too.

4. Understand the importance of what these devices can do for your child. The more you know about comprehension and developmental assistance, the more your children will benefit in the end.

5. Prepare for your initial fitting and future adjustments. Children develop at a much faster rate than adults. You’ll most likely need to keep on top of audiologist visits and appointments. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your child’s future is worth voicing any concerns you may have.

For more information, don’t hesitate to check out our tech spotlight or call us with any questions.

Keeping Your Ears Clean

Hearing aids are only half the story. Keeping your ears clean and dry (and covered up when you head outside during the winter months) can keep you safe from ear infections, impacted earwax, and other sound-limiting discomforts.

What Can You Do?

1. Keep your ears dry. This is the best way to prevent ear infections. If your ears get wet, or if you have water trapped inside, be sure to dry the outside and immediate inside with a towel or cloth. You can also use swimmer’s ear drops to unclog any passages.

2. Cover up! If it’s cold or windy outside, your ears may get dry, irritated, or debris may lodge itself inside.

3. If you experience pain, or if anything other than water gets deep into your ear canal, be sure to talk to your audiologist or PCP.

4. Don’t use Q-tips®! They may seem like the perfect tool for the job, but they often do more harm than good. If you have earwax, your doctor or audiologist can help remove it.

5. Wipe off anything you put into your ears (hearing aids, earbuds, etc.) with a dry microfiber cloth and any audiologist-approved sanitizer a couple times a week.

Why It’s Important

Your ears, like any part of your body, need to be looked after and maintained. They can be hard to clean, and unless there’s a noticeable issue such as pain or irritation, it’s not that difficult to ignore them entirely. But with the right amount of care, you can be “ears forward.” Protecting your ears can — in the end — help protect your hearing.

Keeping your ears clean is important!

New Year, New Hearing Resolutions

We’re big believers in hearing resolutions here at REM Audiology. Sometimes, a small goal at the beginning of the year is all it takes to make that first step you’ve been meaning to make. Maybe you’ve been wanting to try a new hearing aid or some assistive listening technology, or maybe you’ve thought about downloading some hearing aid apps to help improve your connectivity to the world around you. Possibly, you’ve been putting off getting that initial hearing assessment, making that first phone call to your primary care physician or audiologist.

Last year, we wrote a comprehensive blog on worthwhile hearing goals, covering everything from regular hearing assessments to pediatric testing to new tech and features. This year, we want to focus on the importance of your mental outlook, how it can help you see those resolutions through to their end. Everyone is at a different stage in their hearing health development, but in the fruit few months of 2020, we can all take a decisive step forward together.

Stay Positive

The struggles of hearing loss are very real, and they can absolutely be disruptive. But hearing difficulty doesn’t have to lower the quality of your life. A positive outlook can help motivate you to further explore hearing solutions. There have even been studies that have shown the value of receiving quality hearing care.

“Anger, frustration, depression, and anxiety are all common among people who find themselves hard of hearing. Getting people to use the latest in hearing aid technology can help them regain control of their life and achieve emotional stability and ever-better cognitive function.

Try New Things

Keeping up with the latest advances — even just being aware — is a crucial part of staying confident and engaged with the world around you. We consider hearing technology to be an important investment, so become an informed consumer by visiting sites such as ASHA online and HearingLikeMe.com.

The more you know about the hearing industry — the more savvy you are — the better you and your audiologist can make the decisions regarding your hearing health future.

Work Together

Working together with your audiologist and PCP benefits everyone. With lines of communication open and everyone on the same page, you can really maximize your visits and care.

ASHA has a good list about what you can do before, during, and after your visit.

Have a Good Year

This is your time to shine. The next few months, make an effort to cross some items off your wishlist. 2020 is not just another year, but a new decade. It’s the perfect time to put your hearing health front and center.

South Jersey Holiday Hearing Events

If you have hearing loss, you might spend a lot of time thinking about accessibility, about what options are available to you at various events and venues around town. Does a theater or museum have assistive listening devices or T-coil technology? Do they have reliable open/closed captions or maybe even ASL-compliant interpreters? What is available to help make listening easier? What holiday hearing events are for you?

These are important questions, and this holiday season, we have your back.

What is there to do?

Recently, we wrote about several seasonal activities and resources in Philadelphia. In this blog, we’re focusing on South Jersey.

1. December 12 – 22, the Ritz Theatre Company in Haddon Township has a Scrooge Musical production. December 16 – 21, they have a children’s Frosty the Snowman show. The theater is fully handicap accessible and has select ASL interpretation and assistive listening help. Always call before buying tickets to see what options are available.

2. If you have kids (and even if you don’t), the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, has a festive Christmas Underwater event. Though they don’t offer assistive listening devices, a free-of-charge ASL interpreter can be provided with 2-weeks notice. They also have complimentary sound-reducing headphones for anyone sound sensitive that you can pick up at the front desk.

3. Though we at REM (understandably) urge caution around loud, sudden noises, the 2nd Annual Hanukkah Fireworks Celebration in Voorhees, NJ, might be worth a look. Here, you won’t have to worry about hearing at all. Just be sure to wear ear protection if needed!

4. There are also all the come-as-you-are holiday events you can choose from: mall Santas, light displays, holiday hayrides, and family farm activities. These might be the perfect places to try out different settings on your hearing aids or practice listening to speech-in-noise. Any new environment that forces you to hear under different-than-normal circumstances only helps your comprehension abilities in the end.

If you have any suggestions for holiday hearing events yourself, let us know! We’ll publish them here in this blog with your permission and attribution.

Resources

For more information about state disability requirements and some helpful suggestions, we suggest getting in contact with the state’s Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Also, be sure to check out our past blogs tips for hearing around the holiday dinner table and our popular holiday hearing guide.